Study Guide for Cooperative Principles: Fostering Racial and Economic Equity in Cooperatives

November 5, 2018
By Jade Barker, Carolee Colter, Patricia Cumbie, Bill Gessner and Thane Joyal, Columinate

This discussion guide is designed to foster dialogue that explores cooperative principles and values through the lens of racial and economic equity.

From the authors:

Discussing each principle and value through the lens of racial and economic equity will provide a starting point for promoting a more inclusive and effective movement. This is a resource for boards of directors, management teams, and study groups who especially want to explore the impact of dominate white culture on co-ops, and who want to find a way to create a dialogue to begin change.

Co-ops offer the opportunity for local ownership and an alternative to exploitive business practices. Yet there are historical, cultural, racial and economic barriers in place in many organizations that prevent people from participating fully in the benefits of cooperation. Through a commitment to evaluation and education, coalition-building and making change, cooperatives can create supportive infrastructural systems that lift oppression and allow for greater participation.

Every co-op can benefit from gaining a deeper understanding of their cooperative’s role in facilitating racial and economic equity within their organizations. The Cooperative Principles and Cooperative Values are fundamental touchstones for current cooperative identity worldwide, and they intrinsically offer opportunities for reflection and evaluation. What guidance can we gain from further study of the Cooperative Principles and Values as we seek greater racial and economic equity in our cooperatives and our society?

In North America and beyond we are tied to complex histories that need to be acknowledged and challenged. This Study Guide was created in the spirit of “appreciative inquiry” and likewise any dialogue about racial and economic equity needs to be facilitated with respect and consideration. We also invite you to create and consider additional questions based on the cooperative principles and values that could be part of your co-op’s ongoing process of self-assessment. This tool is intended as one starting point for your cooperative in the further study of the Cooperative Principles and Values. —Jade Barker, Carolee Colter, Patricia Cumbie, Bill Gessner and Thane Joyal.

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